NORWALK, Conn. – State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) responded Monday to comments tying her to the controversial conservative political group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a mostly corporate-funded group, according to several online sources, that writes model legislation that is sent to members nationwide to adapt to their states.
The ALEC website states, “One of ALEC’s greatest strengths is the public-private partnership. ALEC provides the private sector with an unparalleled opportunity to have its voice heard, and its perspective appreciated, by the legislative members.”
At her request, ALEC sent Lavielle a letter via email dated May 29 stating she is not listed as a member. A copy of the letter is attached at the end of this report.
The two-term state rep is running for reelection in November. Democrat Keith Rodgerson, a former Bridgeport City Councilman who moved to Wilton about a year ago, has announced he will challenge Lavielle. The district covers parts of Norwalk, Wilton and Westport.
Given her denial of membership, NancyOnNorwalk asked Lavielle to explain why Sourcewatch listed her as an ALEC member, and why she was listed among participant in an Education Task Force meeting held in 2011. Her response:
Many members of my House caucus belong to ALEC. I don’t.
I did, however, once attend an ALEC meeting in New Orleans, in August of 2011, along with quite a number of my caucus colleagues, several of whom were longstanding members. It was after the end of my first legislative session, and during the slow days of August, this seemed like a good opportunity to explore an organization where I could learn something that would help me do my job better.
I was quickly disappointed. It was a several-day conference. I attended one plenary session and one Education meeting. I found it singularly non-useful for anything I might want to do to serve my constituents. So I did two things:
- I spent the rest of the day browsing in the French Quarter.
- I got up the next morning and took a plane to Houston to see my parents.
And I never had any further interaction with the organization.
I presume that my attendance at the meeting is what accounts for my being on the list.
One important point. Legislators who attend ALEC conferences may ask for reimbursement of their travel and hotel expenses. I did not. I paid my own expenses and that was that. (I believe I also paid $100 to attend the meeting.)
I actually don’t know a lot about ALEC. What I noticed in the Education meeting, however, was that the situations and school systems being discussed didn’t bear any resemblance to those in Connecticut. Most people seemed to be from Western or Midwestern states. Connecticut, and New England, are quite different. I didn’t see how I could possibly apply the concepts. I like to use my time wisely, and I could think of many other ways to do that.
I have made it a point to look into other legislative organizations as well when I have had the time. I have attended conferences held by the National Federation of Women Legislators, and those have occasionally been useful regarding subjects like teen dating violence. I have also attended a Women in Government conference. I hope one day to attend a meeting of the Council of State Governments and of the National Conference of State Legislators, but they have never occurred at a time when I could go.